What Characteristics Do The Best Running Shorts Have?

Shorter running shorts tend to be used in performance or races. Longer shorts tend to be used as more general purpose everyday running shorts. There is a mid-length variant that combines the performance characteristics of the shorter are short with the everyday convenience of the longer short. However this type of short is a compromise so you may not get the benefits associated with the shorter short or a longer short.

This guide will help you identify the characteristics that are important to you and help you find the best running shorts.

Buyers Guide

When choosing your next pair of running shorts there are several practical and aesthetic considerations to take into account. Here are some of those considerations.


If your running shorts are not comfortable you’ll feel less inclined to pull them on and go for a run. Comfort is a personal feeling that you get when pulling your shorts on. It may be the material the shorts are made of, how they fit, the way they look or you may associate them with a positive and happy running experience you had when you were wearing them in the past.

Essentially there’s more to comfort that means the eye.


Running shorts are made of a lightweight material that is moisture wicking and flexible. The interior of the short will either have mesh lining or a compression system (for more information about compression shorts take a look at this article).

It may come as a surprise to new runners to discover that running shorts do not necessarily require the runner to wear underwear. The mesh lining of shorts is constructed of a breathable material. It  gives a secure locked in feeling whilst running. The material of the lining is designed to help the runner not overheat in hot conditions.


There are three classic lengths for running shorts:

  • Short running shorts are 3 inches in length. You’ll see this type of short being warn by top marathon runners and amateurs alike. They are extremely lightweight which is exactly the characteristic you need when running a marathon. They may or may not have a mesh lining or feature compression technology.
  • Medium length running shorts are 5 inches in length. These are a compromise that could be used in a race situation or for training. They offer some of the lightweight characteristics of the shorter running shorts. While offering the wearer some protection from the. Ideal if the weather conditions look a little changeable.
  • Long length running shorts are 7 inches in length. Runners tend to wear this type of short in training or on trail runs. They also greatest degree of protection and are the heaviest of all three types of short (but you would never call them heavy).

Running Shorts And Underwear

As mentioned running shorts do not require the addition of underwear to be worn underneath them. However should you find that running shorts with the breathable netting or compression shorts are not your liking. There are running shorts out there that are designed to be worn with underwear.

However this is very much the exception rather than the rule. Companies such as Runderwear make excellent seamless underwear for runners designed to go under shorts to stop chafing. If your shorts with the breathable netting is not agreeing with you. It is possible to cut out that lining and continue to use the shorts with underwear.

Running Shorts And Pockets

Most running shorts come with a single small pocket that has a zip. This pocket is usually situated the rear of the shorts or on the hip. It is designed to carry small essential’s such as a key, some cash or anything around that size.

I tend to use that pocket for salt caps during a marathon. It’s not a perfect pocket for this purpose as invariably the salt camps will get wet. However, putting salt caps and only salt caps int that pocket means I don’t have to think too hard towards the end of a marathon well I’m going in for another salt cap.

Some shorts do have pockets at the side that are unzipped. these pockets are not designed to carry essential’s with you while you’re running. Rather they are designed for you to put things in beginning or the end of your run.

There are examples of shorts have pockets inside upper part of the short where it’s possible to store running gels. These are not a popular idea, I’ve never used them so cannot comment on how good they are and how accessible the gels are in the middle of a run.

Price Range

As with all things running, there is a large price range between the cheapest and the most expensive running shorts. At the expensive end of the market it’s possible to pay almost $100 for a pair of shorts. While at the lower end examples can be found on Amazon for around $20.

I tend to pay around the $25 price point. For this price you can find a good quality pair of shorts from a known brand that you can trust.

The more expensive examples have additional features such as compression or even and in a pocket that will contain your phone.


It’s possible to buy running shorts of any colour you can imagine. I particularly like current range retro colours from Nike. I may have to venture away from the normal black ASICS shorts I wear. Have a look around you may be surprised what you find and what you like.

Final Thoughts: Best Running Shorts

Whatever the characteristic you are looking for in a pair of running shorts you will almost certainly be able to find a pair that will meet your needs.

If you’re new to running buy a pair for a middling price of between $25 to $30. There’s every chance that they disappear from your thoughts and become a part of you.

If you’re an experienced runner think about how your shorts to this point have helped or hindered your running. Think about the shorts and things that you’d like to change or keep the same.

Best Running Shorts


Slightly obsessed middle aged runner.